EPL

Rashford could be first Man Utd player to get Anfield ovation! – Robertson

By Sports Desk September 19, 2020

Marcus Rashford's charity work might see him become the first Manchester United player to get a round of applause at Anfield, said Liverpool defender Andy Robertson.

United attacker Rashford successfully lobbied to have the free school meal voucher scheme extended to help families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the United Kingdom government making a U-turn and agreeing to cover the summer months.

The England international also partnered with charity FareShare and helped raise £20million to provide free meals to vulnerable families, before setting up a task force with a group of supermarkets, businesses and charities to call on the government to ease child food poverty in the UK.

Robertson has started the AR26 charity to help underprivileged kids and released a book about Liverpool's historic Premier League title triumph last season to raise funds for it.

The Scotland captain was irked by health secretary Matt Hancock calling on footballers to "take a pay cut and play their part" during the early stages of lockdown and thinks Rashford's accomplishments should be applauded by fans across the country.

"In the lockdown period I decided to set up my own charity, AR26, which is going to help underprivileged kids, which is really important to me," Robertson told Sky Sports News.

"I have a football academy already up in Glasgow which is going to now not exist and come under the charity, so we're hoping to provide football and potentially other sports up for hopefully free up and down the country and get kids playing sport and staying active.

"I was watching the TV when Matt Hancock said what he said during lockdown and I couldn't believe it, and then a couple weeks later Marcus Rashford does what he does. And to be honest what he did was remarkable, he got something overturned in government, which doesn't happen for footballers very often. He's an absolute inspiration to all of us.

"I hope that when fans are allowed back into the grounds that that man gets a standing ovation off every fan, because what he's done to provide food for kids that might not get it is an absolute inspiration.

"He might just be the first Man United player to get a round of applause at Anfield! Let's see if that happens, but he certainly deserves it and all the plaudits he gets because what he did was phenomenal."

The Players Together initiative to help generate funds for the NHS, which Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson spearheaded, was launched by Premier League players shortly after Hancock's comments sparked widespread debate.

"Hendo and all the other captains ended up raising a fund for the NHS, who are the real heroes in all this, who fought the pandemic when a lot of us hid away from it," said Robertson.

"Hendo was the driving force behind that. These things were all bubbling away when Matt Hancock called us out, and it felt as if we were probably getting attacked when other industries, other sports people were getting attacked.

"It didn't sit right with me and it didn't sit right with many footballers because I believe we're all very active in what we do and try and help, whether it's family that maybe need charity or it's proper charities.

"I believe we're all active and I felt it was a wee bit harsh what he said."

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    The Reds were dealt a huge blow when it was confirmed their towering centre-back requires surgery on damaged knee ligaments sustained after an ugly challenge from Jordan Pickford in the 2-2 draw against Everton on Saturday. 

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    Ready to do battle

    Upamecano contested the most duels (87) of the four in the Champions League, and went at a success rate of 71.26, similar to Van Dijk (70 duels and 74.29 success rate), while he also had a comparable number of headed clearances per 90 minutes (2.04 to Van Dijk's 2.28) and interceptions (1.63 to 1.08). Gomez had 2.64 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Champions League last season.

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    Upamecano, who stands at 186cm, was between Van Dijk and Gomez when it came to aerial duels last season. He won 18 of 27 aerials in the 2019-20 Champions League, a rate worse than Van Dijk (33 of 47) but better than Gomez (24 of 41).

    It was a similar story in the respective leagues, although he contested fewer than Liverpool defenders. An area Upamecano fell short in, at least domestically, was in being dribbled past by an opponent, which happened 20 times in 28 Bundesliga games, a figure ranking him below both Van Dijk (seven times in 38) and Gomez (11 in 28), but ahead of Matip (seven in nine). 

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    In this area, Upamecano may offer the Reds the most. In the Champions League last season, his passing accuracy in the opposition half was 83.1 – higher than the Liverpool trio, including Van Dijk (82.7). When it came to passing accuracy ending in the final third, Upamecano again topped the list (74.1), ahead of Gomez (71.6), and that included averaging 11.7 passes into the final third per 90 minutes.

    In domestic action, Upamecano also topped the list in these categories, and his passing accuracy in the opposition half to begin this Bundesliga season is 84.7, while Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip have all dropped off from last season in this area.

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